John Borstlap gets a UK premiere

John Borstlap gets a UK premiere


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2016

The neo-tonal Dutch composer arouses heated opinions on Sipped Disc.

He has a premiere coming up in London on October 23. Go hear for yourself.

Ask nicely and we might offer a couple of tickets.



  • David Osborne says:

    Forget Brexit and Trump. This is the end of civilisation as we know it!

  • John says:

    Exciting! Well done, John!

  • Master Baker says:

    “Mind you, he does talk some crap sometimes…”
    That hits the nail on the head. But I agree, anyone who actually produces something tangible these days deserves compliments. Congrats to JB.

  • Frederick West says:

    An excellent collection of musicians playing this premiere too, worth it for that alone. Trust it goes well.

  • Milka says:

    Mr. Lebrecht , hardly ever
    Though truths bear repeating , prejudices do not..

    • John Borstlap says:

      Hear, hear.

      For people, who have difficulties understanding the workings of the wheel, and see – in their confused state – its re-invention everywhere, its structure has to be demonstrated again and again, and preferably with variations (taking into account the butterfly attention span).

      But, seriously: in art, there does not exist something like progress. Creation is based upon variation and mixes of things that exist already, filtered through the personality of the maker. To detect such processes, at least 50% of the intelligence that goes into the making is needed at the receiving end.

      “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” André Gide

    • David Osborne says:

      Milka, you know I love you and you are no fool, that’s for sure. Just in this instance very, very wrong.

      • milka says:

        Am I wrong because I hold a different opinion …what makes it wrong ?
        I am not surprised that Gide would be quoted , he also thought he had the only true answer to creativity and thought only he knew how Chopin should be played.
        I am surprised that you subscribe to someone who presumes to tell you what
        and how to think” correctly” and what is true art expression and what is not.

        • Pianofortissimo says:

          I am really grateful for you telling us what and how to think correctly. It is very difficult to think correctly, especially in matters as what true art is, and your wise guidance is always very, very enlightening. As we say in my planet, live long and prosper.

        • John Borstlap says:

          “As a master of prose narrative, occasional dramatist and translator, literary critic, letter writer, essayist, and diarist, André Gide provided twentieth-century French literature with one of its most intriguing examples of the man of letters.” Article on André Gide in ‘Contemporary Authors Online’ 2003.

          I never read anything by Gide, apart from that aphorism, which I think is quite apt, in spite of its cavalier wording.

  • David Osborne says:

    Absolutely Milka, that is the great paradox of the Borstlapian world view.

    • Milka says:

      The paradox my dear Osborne is that seemingly intelligent people with
      the world past history in mind would allow themselves to be guided in how to think.
      Sadly it is not a rare human condition .I do recall at least three lunatics who considered
      themselves experts on what is true art and music and the masses must be led to their
      concepts .You might recall the names …Mao, Stalin, Hitler.

      • David Osborne says:

        Milka, unfortunately you can add to that list Boulez, Nono, Babbit and indeed most of the self styled ‘anti fascist’ post war classical music establishment…

        • David Osborne says:

          Sorry, Babbitt.

        • Milka says:

          Your point being ? …keep in mind two wrongs don’t make a right .
          That one may find interest in music that at best can be noted as 3rd. rate Alkan
          is a matter of choice ,taste and knowledge to the art.of creativity. Your hero in not
          selling in the millions is outraged by the fact and seems to lack the testicular fortitude to speak for himself ,he quotes anothers’ opinion in playing it safe .If you don’t mind
          being dictated to and led by some one elses so called truth so be it , there are many more
          who value the freedom to think for themselves as paramount to the human condition .

  • Mr Oakmountain says:

    And now … for something completely different:
    Congratulations, Mr Borstlap, on the upcoming UK premiere of your piece!
    I hope you, the players and the audience will find it an uplifting occasion!

  • John Borstlap says:

    I much appreciate the kind congrats, and the condemnations of one particular commenter…. Critique from a certain kind of people is the best possible recommendation, especially when opinions, merely offered as a personal contribution to subjects that I am interested in, like other readers of this site – I read most posts and comments with interest, many are instructive – seem to be so dangerously overwhelming that Mao, Stalin and Hitler come to mind. Such reactions entirely vindicate some of my opinions… mostly coming from the windy corner where not much music is heard:

    • Sally says:

      Of course he meant the reactions, not the opinions! What could he do without me?

    • David Osborne says:

      Having followed that link and read your article I can only say: This is the perfect example of what drives people including me, nuts about your writing. You demolish the arguments of this guy who reviewed your book, who mind you is a bit of a soft target- hardly the sharpest tool in the toolshead; make some excellent points of your own, and just when I’m thinking well done John you sign off with:

      “Ironically, the issue of the Zeitschrift in which the article was published, was entirely dedicated to electronic music, its history, its philosophies, its ideologies, its (vain) attempts at creating music.”

      A completely ignorant dismissal of an entire and hugely diverse field of music. Borstlap in a nutshell I’m afraid.

      • David Osborne says:

        Tool shed, sorry! Edit button, Norman, please

      • John Borstlap says:

        Dear David, the point you – and quite some other people who climb into the curtains on reading this stuff – are missing is this: where a new field of experience is created entirely separated from the fundamental dynamics of music, comparisons with music are ludricrous. One cannot cut the fundamentals of an art form to be entirely free to create something new and then turn around and explain the new thing as a development of the former. It should be clear by now that I am criticizing the claims of sonic art (of which electronics is a subgenre) being music, not the right of existence of sonic art itself. Some of it I like quite much, but not as music. And lots of it is, in my opinion and of others whose judgement I respect, mere crap. The phenomenon and its claims have been taken much too seriously and uncritically.

        And, by the way, that author was not a soft target but instead a quite poisonous marxist modernist, writing against the bourgeois world and underscoring his defense of the proletariat with works supposed to inspire the workers’ revolution:

        These sonic clouds are drooping with morbid aggression…. with quite some fascist touches. This is how the revolution will sound, and what it will do to the world.

        • David Osborne says:

          John electronic music is much more than the sonic art or ‘sound design’ sub-category. Even this is electronic music: My point about your reviewer being a soft target was: sure he’s poisonous, but he’s also clearly an idiot.

          • John Borstlap says:

            That video is ridiculous in more than one way…… It is not electronic music, but a normal classical piece by Saint-Saëns performed on an electronic instrument imitating a musical instrument.

  • Fabio luisi says:

    I kind of like his music…..

  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    Whatever your opinions on John Borstlap and/or his music, you should at least have the common decency to congratulate him on taking his UK bow and wish him the best of luck.

    God, what’s happened to the world?

    • John Borstlap says:

      There were successful premieres this year in Dallas and Hong Kong, so to my experience there are still enough corners where serious music is wholeheartedly cultivated and new classical music welcomed as normal. When music lovers get wound-up about musical opinions, this also signals commitment, however unpleasant sometimes. The lack of real debate in the ‘modern scene’ however, demonstrates brain death. A couple of days ago, Roger Scruton delivered a lecture at the Donaueschingen Festival, being invited by one of the two bulwarks of the old avantgarde, and he was received very friendly – as trojan horses always are at first. Maybe that will infuse some thought at the place.

    • David Osborne says:

      Dominic, apart from Milka doing as Milka does, I think we’re all very positive about this. Indeed I need to get to the UK sometime soon and with a little more notice I would have liked to see this myself.

    • milka says:

      One never wishes anyone ill will …. but have you heard the dreadful Avatara !!??
      One has every right to their day in the sun, but in this case it will take more than luck
      if Avatara is an example of creativity by this composer if one wants to call him such .Let us wish him the best even if his past musical theories put into practice has produced
      to this listener nothing of worthwhile value.He may respond with his usual nonsense.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Just by way of offering some more nonsense: the YouTube recording of that piece by this mr Bildau is a serious misrepresentation, since he was knowingly and wilfully ignoring clear indications in the score, turning an atmospheric piece into a motorized mitrailleur, to show-off his finger technique. It was the only ever attempt by me at process music, with the difference that the music makes a harmonic circle and thus, a musical narrative. Performers are free to pervert the score they like to present to the audience.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Well done JB. I hope the two pieces round it live up to your middle piece and aren’t unfairly criticised in comparison.

  • Fernando Bustos says:

    Dear readers,
    Do yourselves a favor and if you are in town, go listen to this magnificent composer. I promise you it will be of great delight to your ears. The works of Mr. Borstlap are simply exquisite; eloquent and articulated to the slightest detail. In my humble personal opinion, as a musician and lover of the arts, Mr. Borstlap is one of the jewels of our time, and his music shall trascend. I look forward to the many more successes that lie ahead of him.

  • Ian says:

    Mr Borstlap,Dear Sir.
    Living as I do in the Antipodes it is unlikely ,short of youtube access,I would get exposure to your output.
    I always read your comments and may disagree at times ,without resorting to silly abuse, but you have encouraged me to think and rethink some of the ideas you put forward.
    In fairness your adversaries,if that is not too strong a description I also get much information that needs to be processed.
    I wish you well with the upcoming concert of your composition.

  • John Dowland says:

    Well I have heard some of your stuff it did not sound bad in the sense of dog biscuit music however it was neither good, on the whole quite boring. I would not buy a ticket to hear any nor buy a CD. Not stuff to take to a desert island. John Dowland is far better.